Color Wars

Major brands are discovering there’s no easy way to dial back Pride Month politics

Corporations having second thoughts about aggressive LGBTQ marketing during “Pride Month” are learning a difficult lesson: when it comes to trying to disentangle your brand from cultural issues, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Just ask Bud Light and Target — the fallout from last year was detrimental to both companies’ revenue and both are still recovering from consumer pushback.

Last year Target, the national retail chain, decided to display LGBTQ Pride merchandise in their stores and received extreme backlash from conservatives over the display. Target’s market value was over 74 billion before the displays were put up and fell over 15.7 billion during the backlash.

This year, Target responded to conservative activists’ concerns by giving its Pride displays less prominent placement and removing it from some stores entirely. In previous years, Target adopted a rainbow-themed version of its logo on their social media platforms in June; this year they decided against it.

Bud Light, under the ownership of Anheuser-Busch, continues to face challenges following last year’s conservative backlash sparked by a social media campaign featuring transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney. This year they, too, decided against embracing the rainbow logo during pride month.

And it’s not just Bud Light and Target — this month numerous other big brands decided to decline LGBTQ-themed logos including Microsoft, Coca-Cola, IBM, and Google.

“Ever since Target and Bud Light had their fiascos last year, a tremendous number of brands have decided it would be much better to sit on the sidelines and let this sort itself out,” Pink Media President Matt Skallerud told USA Today.

As public disagreement over Pride prominence in marketing continues, companies are finding themselves in a bind with the realization that not everyone in their consumer base agrees with progressive values. Even worse: they’re discovering that once they’ve set precedent by engaging in social issues marketing in the past, it’s difficult to disentangle their respective brands once the door has been opened.

As Managing director of GlobalData Neil Saunders said: “If you promote Pride, some people will be unhappy with it. If you don’t promote Pride, some people will be unhappy about that. It’s not a battle you can win completely, which is why some retailers and brands are taking a middle-of-the-road approach and keeping it moderate.”

Of course, none of these companies would be facing this conundrum if they avoided wading into politics in the first place. Any solution to their current quagmire will require a reset that focuses on what should matter the most: the customer.